This from Democracy Arsenal’s Max Bergmann seems about right to me. Saying you want to save military action as a last resort, as John McCain does, is great. But if your first resort is to set unconditional demands that your adversaries have already rejected, you wind up getting to your last resort pretty quickly. To use the language of “Getting to Yes,” unless you want to settle for your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) right off the bat, you’ve got to actually explore the possibility of a negotiated agreement.
Negotiating doesn’t mean being naive about your enemies and their objectives, and it certainly doesn’t mean caving in to them. It doesn’t even necessarily mean reaching an agreement. But it’s the only possible way to find a better outcome than what your BATNA offers. McCain seems to agree that our BATNA is pretty unattractive, but nevertheless proposes a policy approach that’s certain to make it more likely. The tough posturing might make for good politics, but it’s hard to see how it seriously advances America’s interests.
Update: And this, too.